[ Author Bio ]
Most naturalists insist that there is no room for purpose or teleology in the universe. They hold that the origin and evolution of the universe was governed by blind processes, not by the conception of a goal or end. By contrast, theists see the contingent cosmos as explicable in terms of a conscious, purposive, and necessary divine reality. We shall argue that the very existence and nature of free will, purposive explanations, conscious minds, and the contingency of the cosmos are more reasonable given theism than given naturalism.
Naturalism, Free Choices, and Conscious Experiences (Great Debate) (2007) by Andrew Melnyk
Charles Taliaferro and Stewart Goetz offer two main objections to a certain kind of naturalism. First, naturalism concedes the legitimacy of purposeful explanation but conceives of it as a special kind of causal explanation, namely one that cites the wants (or purposes) and beliefs of an agent. But Taliaferro and Goetz object that some explanations--such as the explanations of free choices--are irreducibly purposeful. I argue that our everyday choices provide little if any evidence for fundamentally purposeful (noncausal) explanations. Second, Taliaferro and Goetz argue that the existence of a universe containing nonphysical conscious states requires a fundamentally purposeful explanation. But I argue that this does not follow even if one grants the questionable assumption that conscious states are physically irreducible.
Unlike naturalists, theists can provide a good explanation of the emergence of consciousness because their worldview offers an explanatory framework in which the goodness of conscious life and libertarian free will provides the fundamental reason why conscious, free subjects exist. Contrary to Andrew Melnyk, human choices can only be explained in terms of purposes or reasons for acting, and they do not have causes. In addition, conscious states are intrinsically nonphysical and not made up of parts, while physical explanations of the intrinsic natures of things are typically couched in terms of part-whole compositional relationships.
According to physicalism, what we ordinarily take to be a causally undetermined mental action is both caused and determined. But if physicalism is true, important elements of the first-person point of view are mistaken: Andrew Melnyk's choice to write his paper is not ultimately and irreducibly explained by a purpose, but by the nonpurposive causes of events in his brain. Physicalism implies that at bottom there are not purposive and causal explanations, but simply causal ones, and that there are not free and determined events, but only determined ones. Given these implications, why think that physicalism is true?
In "A Case for Physicalism about the Human Mind," I tried to assemble positive evidence that physicalism about human mentality is true, while insisting that no aspect of human behavior makes it necessary to adopt any kind of dualism about human mentality. In their reply, Charles Taliaferro and Stewart Goetz fail to engage my positive case for physicalism, and offer no examples of human behavior that can only be explained by some kind of dualism. Instead, they primarily object that my paper overlooks features of human mentality purportedly incompatible with physicalism and accessible only from "the first-person point of view," such as free choice and reasons for acting. My response focuses on this objection alone.